It’s February! Executors and Administrators Should Check the Mail!

Hello February - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of coffee

{Read in 3 Minutes} As a Trust and Estates attorney, I often represent Executors and Administrators of Estates. Sometimes Executors or Administrators (collectively referred to herein as fiduciaries) are familiar with the deceased’s assets because they assisted the deceased with the payment of bills before they died. Other times, the fiduciary has little knowledge of the deceased’s assets. Perhaps the deceased handled all of their own financial affairs by themselves. Perhaps the fiduciary is an Administrator who was not particularly close to the deceased but assumed the role of Administrator based upon a blood relationship to them.

As I mentioned in a previous article, being the fiduciary of an Estate often deals with a fair amount of sleuthing to try to identify the assets of the deceased. Every February, there is an opportunity to identify a little bit more.

Why is February so important? The answer is that in January and February of each calendar year, banks and brokerage houses are required to send 1099 forms to all of their customers that have income-producing accounts (these might, for example, include interest-bearing bank accounts, brokerage accounts, required minimum distributions on retirement accounts, etc.).

In a situation where the fiduciary is not fully familiar with all the assets, simply checking the deceased’s mailbox (or having the deceased’s mail forwarded to themselves) may prove very fruitful. The fiduciary can open an envelope to see a 1099 for an account they didn’t know existed, which could mean additional assets coming into the Estate. This is good because it’s potentially more money for beneficiaries, and would potentially entitle that fiduciary to higher compensation for services rendered by way of an increased commissions base.

Nowadays, this is becoming a very useful tool as more and more people choose to forgo the delivery of paper statements through the mail, and instead access their statements entirely online. Whereas a bank account would have given a fiduciary a monthly reminder of the existence of a bank account, online delivery deprives them of that opportunity. However, when the 1099 comes available in January or February, this should prompt the fiduciary to investigate this as a potential asset subject to collection by the Estate.

Where the deceased was even “greener,” establishing the electronic delivery of 1099s, this is a good time for the fiduciary to also check the deceased’s email. If the fiduciary has the password, that is fantastic; however, if not, there may be some workarounds as far as getting online access after the deceased has died. If that proves fruitless and the fiduciary is locked out, they can always work with an accountant to contact the IRS and request copies of any 1099s issued in previous tax years.

For more information on this topic, please contact me.

Thomas Sciacca

 

Thomas Sciacca

www.sciaccalaw.com
Tom@SciaccaLaw.com
(212) 495-0317